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Ivanhoe | Study Guide

Sir Walter Scott

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Ivanhoe | Chapters 42–44 | Summary



Chapter 42

The two knights enter a tower room where Cedric of Rotherwood is sitting with a group of older Saxons. He toasts the Black Knight and his companion. Cedric takes Richard and Ivanhoe to a small chapel where Athelstane of Coningsburgh's bier stands. The men say a prayer. Cedric then brings them to Athelstane's mother, Edith, and introduces the Black Knight as the one "who fought so bravely" to save her son. They move on to another room where Rowena and three other "maidens" are singing a hymn while other women are embroidering a cloth for Athelstane's bier. Then Cedric shows them to their own chamber. Richard reminds him that Cedric had promised "to grant [him] a boon." Richard reveals himself to be Richard Plantagenet. "Richard of Anjou!" cries Cedric. "No ... Richard of England." Cedric refuses to kneel to a Norman, and Richard accepts this until he proves himself worthy. Then Richard asks his boon: that Cedric be reunited with Wilfred. The two reconcile. But Cedric says Rowena must wait two years before she can marry. If she did not, he says, "The ghost of Athelstane himself would burst his bloody cerements and stand before us to forbid such dishonour to his memory."

Just then the door bursts open, and Athelstane is standing there in his grave clothes. From below come cries to "secure the treacherous monks." Athelstane says he has been fed nothing but bread and water for three days. Only the flat of Brian de Bois-Guilbert's sword hit him, so he was "stunned" but otherwise uninjured. He woke in the coffin to the horror of the abbot, who had expected to benefit by his death. They offered him wine, but drugged it. They then imprisoned him, and there he sat till his guard took pity on him. Strengthened by real food, he broke free. As he talks, the room becomes crowded. Athelstane fought his way out, stole the abbot's horse, and rode home. Since arriving, he's had something to eat, seen his mother, and come looking for Cedric.

Athelstane has decided he has no desire to be king; he also frees Rowena so she can marry the man she loves. He looks for Wilfred, but Wilfred has disappeared. They learn a Jew came looking for him, and he put on his armor and left with Gurth. Athelstane then wants to swear allegiance to Richard, but he has ridden off with the Jew. Athelstane complains that everyone he talks to disappears and suggests they start eating before "the devil [flies] off with the supper."

Chapter 43

Many people have come to the Preceptory of Templestowe to watch the trial by combat. At the east end of the field is the grand master's throne; at the west end is a thick stake surrounded by piles of wood. Among the people are a young man "in a green cassock embroidered with gold" accompanied by the minstrel Allan-a-Dale and Friar Tuck, who talk with an old priest, Father Dennet, about Athelstane of Coningsburgh's supposed resurrection from the dead.

As the hour strikes, a Templar procession enters the field, including Lucas de Beaumanoir, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Conrade of Mont-Fitchet, Albert de Malvoisin, and Rebecca. Bois-Guilbert looks "ghastly pale," whereas Rebecca shows "an exquisite mixture of courage and resignation." Rebecca is taken to a black chair near the stake. The grand master points out that there is no champion to fight for the accused. Both the herald and Bois-Guilbert approach Rebecca. The herald asks whether she has a champion, and she asks that the grand master delay as long as possible in case a champion may appear. He orders a delay. Bois-Guilbert begs Rebecca to get up on his horse with him and let him fight their way clear. But she says, "Tempter, begone!"

Two hours have passed, and still no champion arrives. They are about to give up waiting when a knight appears racing toward the field. He and his horse are exhausted, yet he offers himself as Rebecca's champion and gives his name: Wilfred of Ivanhoe. Bois-Guilbert says Ivanhoe needs to heal first, but Ivanhoe insists, reminding him of his pledge at Rotherwood. Even the grand master is concerned about Ivanhoe's condition, but Ivanhoe insists, saying he leaves it in God's hands. Rebecca accepts him as her champion, but then also says he shouldn't fight when he's not well yet.

But the two knights take their places, lower their lances, and, when the trumpet blows, charge toward each other. The exhausted Ivanhoe is knocked from his horse, and Bois-Guilbert falls from his as well. Ivanhoe gets up, sword in hand, but Bois-Guilbert doesn't move. Ivanhoe commands him to yield, but the Templar says nothing. The grand master begs Ivanhoe not to kill Bois-Guilbert; the court accepts his defeat. The Templar's helm is removed, and he dies before their eyes. Beaumanoir says, "This is indeed the judgment of God."

Chapter 44

The grand master pronounces Rebecca "free and guiltless." Moments later the Black Knight arrives followed by "a numerous band of men-at-arms, and several knights in complete armour." One of the knights, Henry Bohun, arrests de Malvoisin for "high treason." He has already arrested Philip de Malvoisin. The royal standard flies over the preceptory, and according to Richard, over many Templar castles in England. Beaumanoir calls on the Templars to follow him out. He will not "be a guest in the house where [he] should command." Rebecca doesn't even register the Templars leaving. She is overwhelmed with everything that's going on. Isaac holds her and says they should go thank Ivanhoe, but Rebecca fears she would say too much and just wants to leave. She points out that King Richard is with Ivanhoe, which convinces Isaac they should go home to Rabbi Ben Nathan's house.

Bohun tells Ivanhoe he was riding north with his men when he happened to meet Richard on his own riding for Templestowe to fight Bois-Guilbert on Rebecca's behalf. He also brings news that Prince John's rebels are going home, and it was John himself who rode to tell them. Richard told him to go stay with their mother until things have quieted down. Maurice de Bracy also escaped by going into service with Philip of France.

Cedric of Rotherwood finally gives permission for his son to marry Rowena. They are married in York Minster with the king in attendance. Two days later a veiled woman comes to see Rowena and insists on talking in private. The woman kneels, bends her head to the ground, and kisses Rowena's hem. She asks Rowena to thank Ivanhoe for her. She and her father are going to Spain; England is too violent. Rebecca gives Rowena a set of diamond earrings and matching necklace. When Rowena doesn't want to take them, Rebecca says, "Think ye that I prize these sparkling fragments of stone above my liberty? or that my father values them in comparison to the honour of his only child? Accept them, lady—to me they are valueless. I will never wear jewels more." She plans to devote herself to prayer and good works. Afraid her feelings for Ivanhoe might show, Rebecca leaves. Ivanhoe and Rowena have a long and happy marriage, but he often thinks of Rebecca. He does well "in the service of Richard," but it all comes to an end with Richard's death in France.


After being cocooned in his coffin and in the abbey dungeon, Athelstane goes through a metamorphosis. It is likely he never wanted to be king or to marry Rowena, but he let Cedric push him around. Now, however, he is strong enough in character to say so. This also allows readers to reinterpret his earlier silences. Perhaps he was not so much interested in food but chose to talk about food rather than disagree openly with Cedric. Changing the topic was a way of avoiding plans for going to war with the Normans. At Ashby he fought on Bois-Guilbert's side against the Disinherited Knight. Perhaps this was less about Rowena being crowned queen of the tournament and more about asserting himself by doing the opposite of what Cedric would want. Both are childish rebellions. Now, though, he has grown up and stands up against his rabble-rousing friend.

Athelstane is one of the characters in Ivanhoe who offers comic relief, others being Isaac of York, Wamba, Gurth, and Friar Tuck. In Chapter 42 Athelstane's story provides plenty to laugh at, with the effect of his resurrection on the people at his funeral feast and his comments about his diet of bread and water. Everything is also turning out well for other characters: War is averted, and Ivanhoe and Rowena can marry. Then, when readers have been lulled into a sense of securing, things suddenly get dangerous when the unnamed Jew arrives looking for Ivanhoe. Though the narrator doesn't say what the message is, readers know from Ivanhoe's departure that he has rushed off to fight for Rebecca's life and honor. But where has Richard gone?

Richard, as readers learn in the last chapter, rides off alone to be Rebecca's champion because he knows Ivanhoe isn't strong enough. He's well aware of Bois-Guilbert's abilities, and indeed Ivanhoe would have been defeated if the Templar hadn't died. But Richard arrives too late; perhaps he was delayed by meeting his chancellor and discussing plans for taking over the Templar's preceptories. Whatever the reason, he was the stronger man and should certainly have reached the trial before poor, wounded Ivanhoe. That he didn't is proof again that Richard is not completely trustworthy. Now that Richard's identity has been disclosed, the narrator often reminds readers of the historical truth behind the idealized fiction of Richard the Lionheart.

The novel's ending has long disappointed its readers, who tend to feel Rebecca is the more deserving of Ivanhoe's love. But Rowena was his first love and a Christian, and he marries her. After risking his own life to save Rebecca, he never sees her again. The meeting between Rebecca and Rowena is in keeping with the morals of the time; it would not be right for the stunning Rebecca to offer her gratitude directly to the newly married Ivanhoe. Rowena's reactions to Rebecca are telling. Even though she knows Rebecca saved Ivanhoe's life through her skills as a healer and that a Christian woman would not have done so, Rowena presses Rebecca to stay in England and convert to Christianity. She would be depriving Rebecca of her faith, her father, her profession, and her freedom. And she shows no awareness whatsoever of the treatment of Jews in England even though she has witnessed it on several occasions in the story—for example Isaac's treatment at Rotherwood, Ashby, and Torquilstone—and knows that Rebecca was very nearly murdered by the Templars simply for being a Jewess and a healer. Rowena does not come off well when compared with Rebecca.

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